Chronic Stress & Anxiety
Feeling stressed at times is normal, but unfortunately many people are experiencing much higher levels of stress that can overload their body and create anxiety. Stress isn’t just mental and emotional; physical and environmental stress contribute greatly and can keep you in a negative cycle of chronic stress which can compromise your health in many ways.
Do you wake up each day with low energy?
Do you notice that small hiccups in your day seem to “set you off” and can cause your heart to pound or feelings of anxiety? Do you notice that you get colds more often and always feel like you’re just trying to “get through” your day. Does your mind race at night?
These are all symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety which typically point to other more serious health imbalances.
What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress has become an epidemic and is the most common complaint reported by primary care physicians. The way your body experiences stress is much more complicated than most people realize. The stress response is a complex system that involves the brain, nervous system, and the adrenal glands, called the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. When the brain perceives a stress, it signals the adrenals to make cortisol and the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline). Optimal cortisol levels are highest in the morning to help us wake up and start the day, and lowest in the evening to promote sleep. Long-term stress leads to chronic activation of the HPA axis, which disrupts the cortisol rhythm as well as DHEA, melatonin, and epinephrine. Nearly every organ including the gut, brain, thyroid, and male and female reproductive systems can be impacted, leading to a multitude of symptoms including cognitive issues like anxiety.
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
People often feel wired, but tired, experience palpitations, anxiety, difficulties sleeping, dizziness with standing, low blood pressure, body aches, muscle pain, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, low libido, thyroid imbalances, poor exercise tolerance and recovery, brain fog, and cravings for salt and sugar.
Damage Caused by Chronic Stress
Cortisol increases blood sugar and over time can lead to insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. The immune system becomes suppressed, allowing for chronic inflammation and increased susceptibility to viral infections.
Causes of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can be due to a multitude of things, including lack of sleep, a diet high in processed and junk foods, consuming too many stimulants like caffeine and sugar, a rigorous work schedule, emotional trauma from unhealthy relationships or death of a loved one, over-training, and lack of fun or loving relationships.
Chronic internal stress (usually to blame for anxiety) can also be caused by certain biological imbalances that are typically not addressed by conventional practitioners. This includes dealing with gut health as it relates to gut bacteria balances as well as issues with hormones.
The Functional Medicine Approach
With the chronic stress cycle, functional medicine acknowledges the multi-factor causes, from lifestyle factors including poor food choices and food sensitivities, systemic imbalances like gut and hormones, or potentially other factors like a variety of traumas that haven’t healed. Exposure to environmental toxins and even stealth infections are two other considerations that are typically overlooked by conventionally trained practitioners.
Treatments for Chronic Stress
When it comes to chronic stress, it’s important to work with a functional medicine practitioner who follows a truly holistic and inclusive approach while running the correct testing to determine exactly where your imbalances are.
Once you receive the results from your comprehensive testing, we pair this with a personalized healing protocol that also includes the important lifestyle changes needed to break the chronic stress cycle.
If you have been experiencing symptoms relating to chronic stress or anxiety, schedule an appointment with Elemental Health today!
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